Wednesday, April 4, 2012
The intricacies of Devon Kennard's game
By Pedro Moura
Devon Kennard never expected he'd record only two sacks as a co-starting defensive end for the USC Trojans last season, but that's exactly what happened.
In fact, it took the then-junior until the eighth game of the 2011 season to bring down an opposing quarterback -- Stanford's Andrew Luck, actually. He has only four career sacks to his name in 37 games split between defensive end, middle and outside linebacker.
But the senior and Arizona native still says he thinks double-digit sacks are a legitimate possibility for 2012, and that's what he's targeting.
"That's the ultimate goal," Kennard said after the Trojans' Tuesday practice. "You always set it up high, but I'm not concentrating on that. I want to play to the best of my ability and see where it puts me at the end of the year.
"I'm worried about today and getting better."
Kennard has gotten better this spring, at least according to his coach -- defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron. Orgeron spotlighted Kennard as one of the players on the Trojans' defense who's clearly making strides.
It makes sense, too, because this is the first spring since he arrived on campus in 2009 that Kennard has been able to participate, so he's embracing the opportunity. Previously, he has been bothered by varying injuries each year that kept him off the field.
That's also one of the reasons why, Kennard says, he hasn't been able to accumulate as many sacks as he'd like. He has been rusty. The other reason?
He kept switching positions, from DE at first to OLB and then to MLB before moving back to DE. He never got comfortable at one, especially since he only had half the year to practice there.
And that's why Kennard is spending this spring focusing on the little things he needs to perfect as a defensive end.
"All I had was fall camp," Kennard said. "And I felt great in fall camp and everything but the difference was gameday is actually about finishing. We don't finish in practice, so that's something I'm emphasizing. If you go back and watch film, especially early in the year, I was beating a lot of offensive tackles off the edge.
"It's just intricacies -- the quarterback steps up in the pocket and he might try to step out of it. It's being aggressive and finishing the play. That's something I'm focusing on."
For his part, Kiffin says it's "hard to tell" how much Kennard was hurt by the position switches.
"But he's improved," Kiffin said. "A lot like guys do their last year for whatever reason -- guys, their senior year, play better and you can see that improvement and he's the healthiest he's been."